The Future of Sports Sponsorship

SponsorPulse Staff
  • June 23, 2022
  • SponsorPulse Staff
We took a pulse check of the industry in our State of Sponsorship 2022 report, surveying industry professionals and consumers to find out what's next for the sports sponsorship landscape.
We took a pulse check of the industry in our State of Sponsorship 2022 report, surveying industry professionals and consumers to find out what's next for the sports sponsorship landscape.

Sports sponsorship is experiencing a healthy rebound from the pandemic-related uncertainties that once sent shockwaves across the industry. Motivated to understand the developing sports sponsorship landscape, we took a pulse check of the industry in our State of Sponsorship 2022 report. Throughout our research, we surveyed everyone from industry veterans, to passionate fans about their feelings, predictions, and desires for all things sports sponsorship.

The verdict? Industry professionals and consumers are aligned – sponsorship is a powerful vehicle for marketers looking to make an impact. Looking for the TL;DR? We’ve got you covered. Here’s what’s on the horizon for the future of sports sponsorship: 

Push towards Innovation 

Both the industry and consumers agree that sports sponsorship is ripe with innovation. Our data, however, painted a disjointed picture of which properties are innovating effectively. 

When asked, unprompted, which sports properties industry professionals believed led the way in marketing creativity and innovation, the NFL and NBA were nearly tied at 29% and 28% respectively. Consumers, however, did not agree. We found that consumers were likelier to tie innovation to sports themselves (think: soccer or cricket) as opposed to linking innovation to particular leagues or teams.

From the brand perspective, it’s no surprise Nike was the uncontested champion of sports marketing innovation among both consumers and industry insiders. From sponsoring individual athletes to funding unique causes that benefit the planet and communities across the globe, Nike has set the bar high for all sponsorship executives looking to increase their ROI while making a positive difference in the process. Another brand that topped the list? Red Bull. The energy beverage company shares Nike’s unconventional approach to sponsorship in many ways, most notably through the marquee events that leverage the star power of celebrities to attract new customers. 

All this is to say, when it comes to sports sponsorship, one size doesn’t fit all. However, we’re forecasting that top brands will take a page out of Nike, Red Bull, and other list toppers playbooks by striving to capture attention with unique marketing strategies that make the mark. 

Focus on Alternative Sports

When sports sponsorship springs to mind, what do you picture? While many may envision an Olympian on a cereal box, or a hulking NFL player's exclusive use of one brand of protein powder, our data suggests that many consumers are looking to expand the notion of what sport looks like. In fact, consumers are calling for more investment in women’s and emerging sports leagues.

When it came to women’s sports, as echoed in our previous report, Women’s Sports & The Future of Sponsorship, insiders and consumers are aligned. With 47% of industry participants believing women's sports are poised for growth, and 40% of consumers pushing for it, there’s a clear demand for a brighter spotlight to be shone on the industry. 

On the other hand, a discrepancy arose when considering that only 8% of industry insiders believe that emerging alternative sports have growth potential, while 36% of consumers would like to see more investment in them. It’s evident that consumers are onto something. In recent years, sports that were once viewed as mere hobbies have transformed into major global events, like the World Pickleball tour, and these tournaments offer relatable content to viewers while providing robust sponsorship opportunities to marketers.  

At this moment in time, demand for women’s and alternative sports sponsorships is far outweighing supply. We expect to witness many brands shifting their focus away from athletes and personalities, in favour of embracing the new frontier of alternative sports sponsorship – whatever shape that may take!

Looking for more insight? Check out our detailed property report for the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

A Way Forward

Our research confirmed our sneaking hypothesis – despite the vast opportunities that sponsorship offers, challenges remain. Fragmentation and lack of whitespace in sports sponsorship were highlighted as genuine concerns shared among industry professionals, and our platform is designed with these hurdles in mind. On an encouraging, we found that sponsorship opportunities beyond sport, in the realm of music, arts, entertainment and cause, were viewed as offering increased opportunities to break through. 

Looking to keep reading? Dive into our State of Sponsorship 2022 report here!